Special Issue: Interview with Mark Dybul
On 15 November 2012, the Global Fund Board appointed Dr. Mark Dybul to become the next Executive Director. He will begin in early February.
What is your vision for the Global Fund?
From its inception, the Global Fund has had an innovative approach to development. It’s an institution that looks at development with a 21st century approach, constantly learning, constantly improving. As the next Executive Director, my job will be to maintain the strong forward trajectory of the Fund in order to end the three diseases.
We’re at a unique moment in time, when we have the scientific advances to allow us to completely control these three diseases. We need to redouble our efforts to make sure we’re raising the resources and having that incredible focus on impact and high value for money. It’s exciting to have the chance to be involved with this remarkable institution at this time.
How do you see the organization evolving in the next few years compared with the recent past?
The actions taken by the Global Fund in the last couple of years show that the Fund is a learning organization. It learns, it reflects and it adapts. As a financing institution, the Global Fund will continue investing in programs that support national health strategies, and will expect that implementers increasingly engage and focus on high value-for-money and high-impact programs. What we can now achieve is incredible.
So you’re optimistic?
Yes. I’m an impatient optimist. I want us to recognize and make full use of the fact that science is giving us the tools to completely control these three diseases, including one that has been around for millennia and another that is the modern version of the plague. We can’t eliminate them right now, but if we work together we can control them.
What approach do you favor to prevent the spread of HIV?
Supporting countries in their own most effective programs, with evidence-based approaches. The science is getting very advanced. We have the use of antiretrovirals for prevention both for HIV-positive and for HIV-negative people, medical male circumcision, there are condoms and there’s behavior change. We must continue to use this combination approach. What works best in one country might not be best in another. By supporting countries to design their own most effective programs – that’s how we’re going to get to end the diseases.
What can you say about the new funding model?
The new funding model represents the evolution and the learning process of the organization, in order to improve the processes to ensure high value for money and impact. The model will be starting right away, and we will want to continue to support countries in evolving and improving their programs.
The new funding model will expand country dialogue, and support country-owned approaches. Countries know what needs to be done and how to solve the problems, and that’s what the Global Fund supports. All this should be done in partnership though and we rely on technical partner organizations, bilateral organizations, the private sector, and others to contribute to successful programs. And that’s one of the unique things about the Global Fund: it is a full partnership that supports smart investments.
Do you expect to release new funding for countries soon?
As the new funding model is rolled out, we’re going to hit the ground running. There are resources available now, and we will use them to improve programs and support countries. They know what they need to do and how to solve problems, and we will support them where we can make the biggest difference.
In the new funding model, will the Global Fund continue to work with technical partners?
Yes, of course. The Global Fund is a financing institution and from its founding it has relied on technical partners, to ensure that programs we support are technically sound. We want to strengthen the technical partnerships within the UN family, with bilateral organizations, with the private sector and all entities that have technical expertise. A good example of private sector engagement is Coca-Cola’s participation in helping with supply chain management systems. We need to draw the technical expertise from wherever it is that is the best, so we can ensure high value for money and high impact in the programs that we support.
How big a challenge will it be to raise new funds this year?
I think there’s very strong confidence in the Fund. It’s obviously on a very strong forward trajectory. The Global Fund has been learning and evolving and it has been reflecting, reviewing and adapting. That’s what the Global Fund has been doing for the past 10 years but with an acceleration in the past 18 months.
Health is an important part of development. I think it’s important to countries, as they’re tightening their belts in everything, to look for high-impact investments. The Global Fund is a very attractive investment opportunity because its trajectory focuses on having the highest value for money and high return on investment. These monies will contribute to ending the three diseases.
So while everything is tightening, I actually think we’re in an environment where institutions that are focused on value for money, partnership, and high impact, will do quite well.
What about other investment opportunities?
There are indeed other investment opportunities that we should pursue: co-investments, matching funds, investing not only with countries but with other financing mechanisms such as the World Bank, regional development banks, and the private sector. It’s an exciting time in global health because we know how to do things better. The focus is on high value for money and high impact.
Will the Office of the Inspector General continue to be important for the Global Fund?
The Global Fund has absolute support for a strong and independent inspector general and that’s a reflection of that 21st-century approach to development and health, which includes actually going after and aggressively looking for any misuse of resources. That increases value for money and that’s why people and countries see the Global Fund as high return on investment.
Five years from now, will it be feasible to control the three diseases?
Complete control in five years is ambitious, but we want to be aggressive and get as much control as we can within that period of time. The new funding model which the Global Fund is rolling out allows countries to plan how they can control the three diseases, and with the scientific advances and current resources there is a lot we can do.
Will the Global Fund still be changing, five years from now?
Yes. If we’re not changing, then we’ll no longer be a learning organization.